Friday, March 14, 2008


Laying the PR groundwork for his upcoming congressional testimony on the status of Iraq, the Man-God Petraeus, he of the rank of General, is the subject of a Washington Post article today. In it, he seems to be dialing back expectations, lowering the bar, stepping off from the desperate insistence displayed by some that the "Surge™ worked spectacularly!" He seems almost reality-based, saying that "no one" in the U.S. and Iraqi governments "feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation," nor has the Iraqi government successfully restored delivery of basic public services.
While violence has declined dramatically since late 2006, when thousands of Iraqis were being killed each month, U.S. military data show that attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians have leveled off or risen slightly in the early part of 2008. "I don't see an enormous uptick projected right now," Petraeus said, speaking in his windowless office in the U.S. Embassy, which is housed in Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace. "What you have seen is some sensational attacks, there's no question about that."

Petraeus said several factors may account for the recent violence, including increased U.S. and Iraqi operations against insurgents in the northern city of Mosul -- which has lately become one of Iraq's most dangerous -- and insurgent efforts to reestablish some of their havens in Baghdad. And Petraeus said U.S. commanders could not discount the possibility that insurgents "know the April testimony is coming up."

The additional forces sent to Iraq last year have begun to depart and will be gone by midsummer, leaving in place a baseline U.S. presence of about 130,000 troops. Petraeus said it would increasingly fall to Iraqi security forces and neighborhood patrols funded by the United States to help keep violence down.

Petraeus also said the United States would temporarily freeze further reductions in its troop presence to allow for a "period of consolidation and evaluation after reducing our ground combat forces by over a quarter." He said he would discuss the length and timing of what the military terms an "operational pause" during his testimony. (emphasis added)

Petraeus credited both the mainly Sunni neighborhood patrols known as the Awakening and a cease-fire called by Shiite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr with helping to bring down violence. The Awakening fighters include former insurgents who say they have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq, a largely homegrown Sunni group that Petraeus said is in communication with al-Qaeda leaders abroad. The United States is now paying 88,000 members of the Awakening $300 a month to take part in the neighborhood patrols.

Sadr issued his cease-fire in August 2007 and renewed it last month in an attempt to increase his control over his Mahdi Army militia and expel renegade fighters. U.S. military commanders who once saw Sadr and his forces as enemies now speak deferentially of the cleric, who has maintained his insistence that the U.S. occupation must end.

Of course, the Sunni Awakening Council members have been standing down and yesterday a contingent of the Mahdi Army shelled the piss out of the U.S. base at Kut. Baghdad is a pressure cooker with the lid held on by the American troop presence, and Basra is a potboiler. The last of the Surge™ brigades will leave this summer, and the situation will probably finish reverting to the one we saw in 2006 - the only thing that will have been accomplished will be that the can was successfully kicked down the road to the next president. Five will get you ten that aWol isn't the only one who leaves his office in January. I would bet cash money that Petraeus already has his retirement papers are already filled out.

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